City Zen – A park by any other name

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Ask your councillors where the parks have gone, and they will point proudly to a software park within ten minutes' drive. Car parks, they promise, will follow.

Ask your councillors where the parks have gone, and they will point proudly to a software park within ten minutes’ drive. Car parks, they promise, will follow.

Adjacent to our apartment is a vacant plot where an auto dealership used to park its cars. Returning from a vacation, we saw that the cars had disappeared and the land had been tilled. Soon, spinach and beans sprouted in the furrows. Then a pumpkin patch appeared. Strands of maize stuck out their proud ears. For the last few months, our alarm clock has been a rooster.

We still can’t believe it. From car park to green lung, the transformation represents the reversal of the fate that awaits our city. But it’s too good to last.

My childhood was spent in the backwoods that did not then answer to the name of BTM Layout. With an abundance of snakes and scorpions, we shared a closer acquaintance with the wilderness than we wanted. As we played cricket in the park – then a field overgrown with weeds – a hare darted across the pitch and turned our bitterly fought match into a friendly.

Where had it come from? Beside the park was a grove of guava and eucalyptus trees and towering anthills. In time it was lopped down to make way for more houses. Ironically, we lost our playground when the forest department announced a tree-planting drive. Not yet wise to the distinction between native and exotic species, I joined in planting silver oaks with enthusiasm.

Other trees we loved, like the majestic banyans that lined Hosur Road, met with a different fate. My heart aches when I recall a grove of silver oaks (beggars can’t be choosers, can we?), which were felled to build the elevated expressway. Ancient peepals, which sheltered owls and night herons, were pulled down. The shrines at their feet stand despite the irony that the trees must have inspired their consecration. The stories of trees lost to road-widening are too many, and too painful, to relate.

Dare you forget, ours used to be a Garden City. Avenues and streets were planted with trees that came into flower at various times of the year, ensuring that the city was always a riot of floral colour. That sobriquet is now an anachronism.

We have sacrificed green lungs like Cubbon Park for “essential services” like Namma Metro. The clock is ticking for Lal Bagh. Other gardens (or spaces thus earmarked) are threatened by ambitious construction projects.

Ask your councillors where the parks have gone, and they will point proudly to a software park within ten minutes’ drive. Car parks, they promise, will follow.

But a park by any other name doesn’t feel as green. As I write, an excavator is digging trenches next door, right beside the green lung, to construct a hospital. Ah well, essential services.

One Lal Bagh is no longer enough to keep our city cool. While wooing investors, the captains of industry crow about Bangalore’s salubrious climate as if they invented it. Why not invent it, then? Let’s create a true jungle in the thick of this glass-and-concrete sprawl. Why, even New York City has Central Park.

Psst, we hear the Race Course is up for grabs!

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